20. Partner Communication

In this video we review additional commands, specific to partner communication while aid and big wall climbing.

Aiding Command #1: When the lead climber reaches the anchor, builds a bomber (i.e. 100% secure) anchor, and fixes the main rope, they will yell down to the belayer, “Line is fixed!”

“Fixed line” means the climbing rope is attached to an equalized anchor, and the second climber can begin jugging up—once the haul bag is freed from the lower anchor.

Aiding Command #2: Once the leader has fixed the climbing line on the upper anchor, the leader pulls up any slack in the haul line, and sets up the haul system. The rope should be taut on the haul bags below. When this is ready, the leader will yell down to the belayer, “Ready to Haul!”.

The belayer then carefully detaches the haul bag(s) from the anchor, before they start to jug up the climbing line—just in case anything goes wrong.

Suggested Aiding Commands for the Belayer:

1. Let the leader know when they have passed the halfway point on the rope. If you are not using a tag line, this will be the leader’s last chance to lower a loop of rope and pick up extra gear for leading.

2. It is also nice for the belayer to alert the leader of how much rope they have left to finish leading the pitch. Yell something like “thirty feet of rope!” when there is only 30 feet of rope left, so the leader is aware that it’s time to start looking for a spot to build an anchor. You don’t want to run out of rope in the middle of nowhere.

Suggested Aiding Commands for the Leader:

1. A leader often states “Watch me” when moving through a series of dicey aid placements. This way the belayer is extra attentive.

2. If transitioning from aid climbing to free climbing, the leader might say “Going Free!!”, or “Hey I’m gonna bust some free moves for a few feet, make sure to feed me enough rope.” At that point the leader will be moving more like a rabbit than a tortoise, and the last thing they want is to be short-roped (i.e. rope too tight) by an inattentive belayer.   

3. The leader should also try to alert the belayer when they are close to the anchor. This allows the belayer to start cleaning up the anchor, close up the haul bag, put away the portaledge. This will save time, once the leader is safely off-belay and ready to begin the process of hauling.

Considerations for Aiding Efficiencies:

Once the leader reaches the end of the pitch, there are numerous ways to set an anchor to facilitate organization and transitions. For more on this see our videos on “Building Traditional Anchors” and “Alternative Trad Anchors”.

Ideally you will create two separate, equalized master points at the anchor. One master point is for the follower’s fixed rope, and one is for the haul line. As with all outdoor adventures, things may not line up with your ideal, so some flexibility of skills may be required.

We hope you found this video helpful. Feel free to comment below with questions or thoughts!


Please remember, climbing is inherently dangerous. Climb at your own risk.